Today (Friday 30 September), Will Quince, MP for Colchester, visited the Child Law Advice Service (CLAS), a free specialist legal advice and information service that supports over 15,000 parents, carers and young people across England each year, and receives over two million downloads of its website information pages annually.
Based in Colchester, CLAS is the country’s only free/low cost legal advice service and a vital resource for people who cannot afford the cost of specialised solicitors. It provides advice via its website, email and two advice phone lines on a range of issues relating to child, family and education law including family contact issues, domestic abuse and educational exclusion.
The service, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, is part of Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC). CCLC’s specialist legal practice team, which conducts legal aid casework defending the rights of children and young people, is also based at the office in Colchester.
During the visit, Mr Quince met the team to find out about the impact of its work locally and nationally, and spoke to some of the advisors about the types of enquiries they are receiving and trends they are seeing. The ongoing challenges of the pandemic have been reflected in enquiries, particularly the authorisation of absence for children whose wellbeing had been affected by Covid.
He met with solicitors and caseworkers from CCLC’s legal practice team to find out more about their work in assisting and representing children in the care system and young people leaving care, and ensuring that children and young people with special education needs and disabilities can access adequate education and support to meet their needs.
Mr Quince also had the opportunity to hear from young people who had received support through these services. User feedback on the CLAS service found that 92% of clients – none of whom had access to a solicitor – had a better understanding of their legal position after receiving advice, and 88% said they were clear on the options available and the next steps enabling them to take forward their case.
Will Quince MP said: “It was brilliant to visit the Child Law Advice Service today and learn more about the important work they do here in Colchester. It was particularly valuable to be able to speak to some of the young people who have received support through the services offered here.”
Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, said: “We were pleased to welcome Mr Quince to our Colchester office today to see first-hand the impact of our legal services for young people and families, in our special anniversary year.
“With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and continued pressures on courts and local authorities, free legal information, advice and representation for young people, parents and carers has never been more needed. We are committed to continuing to grow our services so we can help even more people over the year ahead.”
For more information, please visit childlawadvice.org.uk.